Thomas J. Avery Photography
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HomeWorkshopsBig Bend Apr. 2019
Night and Landscape Photo Workshop & Guided Shoot
Based in the Big Bend of Texas
April 2019

Group Shot Under the Milky Way
(Oct. 2017 Workshop)


Photo Workshop: Guided Shoot:
Dates: April 5 - 9, 2019
April 9 - 13, 2019
Students: 12 12
Spaces remaining: 6 2
Tuition: $650
Tuition (Both Events): $900
Instructor: TJ Avery
How to Register: Contact TJ Avery

Table of Contents for This Page:
Night Photography
Getting There
What to Bring
Sun, Moon, & Milky Way Info


NOTE: All times given are approximate. We may shift things around depending on weather, time required to travel to shooting locations, etc. The times and activities listed are just to give you an idea of how the workshop will operate. Please plan on being flexible.

Workshop DAY 1 (Fri, Apr. 5):
4:00 pm -- Meet at Big Bend Resort & Adventures
4:00pm to 5:30pm -- Greet and intro. in classroom + crash course on night photography
6:00pm -- Dinner
7:00pm -- Sunset shoot

Workshop DAY 2 (Sat, Apr. 6):
4:00am to 6:30am -- Night Sky & Milky Way Shoot
6:30am to 8:15am -- Sunrise shoot
8:15am to 10:00am -- Travel back & late Breakfast
10:00am to 2:00pm -- Break
2:00pm to 4:00pm -- Classroom session
4:00pm to 5:00pm -- Afternoon break
5:00pm to 8:30pm -- Afternoon + sunset field shoot
8:30pm to 10:00pm -- Dinner

Workshop DAYS 3 & 4 (Apr. 7 - 8):
(same schedule as Workshop Day 2)

Workshop DAY 5 (Tue, Apr. 9):
4:00am to 6:30am -- Night Sky & Milky Way Shoot
6:30am to 8:15am -- Sunrise shoot
8:15am to 10:00pm -- Travel back & late Breakfast
10:00am to 12:00pm -- Final classroom session
Workshop Ends at Noon

Guided Shoot DAY 1 (Tue, Apr. 9):
4:00 pm -- Meet at Big Bend Resort & Adventures
4:00pm to 5:30pm -- Greet and intro. in classroom + crash course on night photography
6:00pm -- Dinner
7:00pm -- Sunset shoot

Guided Shoot DAY 2 (Wed, Apr. 10):
4:00am to 6:30am -- Night Sky & Milky Way Shoot
6:30am to 8:15am -- Sunrise shoot
8:15am to 10:00am -- Travel back & late Breakfast
10:00am to 5:00pm -- Break
5:00pm to 8:30pm -- Afternoon + sunset field shoot
8:30pm to 10:00pm -- Dinner

Guided Shoot DAYS 3 & 4 (Apr. 11 - 12):
(same schedule as Guided Shoot Day 2)

Guided Shoot DAY 5 (Sat, Apr. 13):
4:00am to 6:30am -- Night Sky & Milky Way Shoot
6:30am to 8:15am -- Sunrise shoot
8:15am to 10:00am -- Travel back & late Breakfast
Guided Shoot Ends at 10am

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Milky Way, Rio Grande, and the ISS streaking through the sky
March 2018


- Photo Workshop: April 5 - 9, Tuition: $650
- Guided Shoot: April 9 - 13, Tuition: $350
- Both Events (Combo): April 5 - 13, Tuition: $900

Both events will have an emphasis on photographing the dark, night sky and Milky Way. We will also spend time in the field during daylight hours practicing nature, wildlife, and landscape photography.

To get the most out of these events, you should understand the features and functions of your camera and know how to operate it in manual mode. It is not mandatory that you have night photography experience, but it will help if you've at least practiced it a few times.

These events are open to anyone who has a desire to see, experience, and photograph the amazing landscape of the Big Bend region of Texas.

During the workshop, we will learn in the classroom as well in the field. It will be several intense days of photography, but everyone will have a few hours of free time during the day to nap and catch up on things.

The guided shoot will NOT have classroom time except for the first evening. A crash course night photography primer will be given and will last approximately 1.5 hours.

We will visit many different, well known locations inside and outside of Big Bend National Park. Such locations may include Santa Elena Canyon, Rio Grande Village, Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive, Chisos Mountains, Boquillas Canyon, Ernst Tinaja, Sotol Vista Overlook, and the Terlingua Ghost Town. We will also visit some out-of-the-way locations - spots that I've discovered on my many trips to the area that are off the beaten path yet easy to reach.

We will enjoy the laid-back atmosphere of the local desert inhabitants and also the spicy and colorful cuisine. Life in the area runs at a slower pace, and folks spend time enjoying their surroundings.

Photographing Cerro Castellan
March 2018

Our classroom will be based at Big Bend Resort and Adventures (formerly known as the Big Bend Motor Inn) in Study Butte. We will have:

- technical guidance and instruction on night photography
- critique of your images shot during the workshop
- instruction on processing and editing your night photos
(Again, this applies only to the workshop with the exception of the crash course/primer in night photography given on the first evening of both events)

I will provide you with printed materials for both events. This will include notes on photography (particularly shooting at night) and also information on many different locations inside and outside of Big Bend National Park.

I will be 100% available to you during both events. I may set up my camera to demonstrate something or to take images to use as examples during our time in the field. But I will be on hand to help you, to point out things of interest and potential, and to answer your questions.

I will also have two assistants during both events. They will be available to you for help at all times. My assitants are experienced night photographers and can offer a range of help basic to advanced.

Our shooting locations will be in large areas where the group will spread out. It may too difficult for me to visit with everyone as they shoot in the field, so if you need my help, make contact with me (yell, wave, or use a walkie-talkie; I will have some available). I will come see you and help to the best of my abilities.

I will help to coordinate shooting multiple groups at night (during the long exposures, all lights must be off). I will also demonstrate light painting and assist with the lights as you all shoot.

We will have a blast. It's great fun to play around with long exposures and lights :-)

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Milky Way and Rio Grande River just before dawn
April 2016

Night Photography

One of the greatest and most beautiful aspects of Big Bend is the night sky. There is very little light pollution, and the Milky Way can be seen brightly on a moonless night.

We will shoot at night and capture the stars and Milky Way. We will visit different locations that offer a variety of foreground subjects to work into your compositions.

Night shooting (field work) includes:

- Taking images that freeze the apparent motion of the stars (minimizing star trails) and capture the Milky Way in combination with Earth-based objects (features on the landscape, structures, silhouettes of people, etc)
- Dealing with shallow depth of field (when shooting at a wide aperture at night) by focus stacking
- How to minimize digital noise while shooting
- Light painting with different light sources and also different temperatures of white lights
- Light painting setups to cover different subjects (people, structures, etc)
- Panoramics at night
- Long exposure star trail photos
- How to shoot time-lapse sequences

3-shot Panoramic - April 2016

Processing and editing subjects covered (in the classroom):

- Settings for processing raw images
- General editing steps (both Lightroom and Photoshop)
- White balance and color correction to achieve desired result
- Reducing digital noise using software
- Stitching panoramics shot at night
- Producing files suited for printing or web use

Night Sky Timelapse
(short video with two sequences)

I will bring my big box of misc. lights for you to use. This lighting kit includes many LED candles, flashlights of different colors, and a UV light (scorpion spotting, anyone? :-)

LED candles

The night sky in Big Bend is something to experience. It will take your breath away as you stare up into the billions of stars that make up our galaxy.

The workshop will take place close to a new moon. The good part of the Milky Way (the wide, colorful portion with loads of detail) will be up in the sky to the southeast BEFORE sunset. We will have opportunity to spend 1 to 2 hours shooting it each morning (early - approximately 4 - 6am) provided the weather cooperates.

See the Sun and Moon Calendar for details.

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Tule Mountain and Blooming Ocotillo
March 2018

Getting There

The Big Bend area is located in remote, southwestern Texas. Big Bend National Park and the villages of Study Butte and Terlingua are part of the Chihuahuan Desert that extends throughout that area of Texas and northern Mexico.

Road map of Texas; click to see larger

The closest commercial airports to Big Bend National Park are Midland/Odessa Airport (MAF) in Midland, TX or El Paso Airport (ELP) in El Paso, TX. From Midland/Odessa, it is a 235-mile drive to the park headquarters. From El Paso, it is 330 miles. The drive from El Paso is a much more scenic route if you have the extra time to drive it.

The Big Bend National Park website contains a lot of useful information about the park, traveling to it, and visiting/using it. Note that you will need to pay a $25 entry fee (per vehicle) to enter the park, and the fee will be good for seven days.

Map of Study Butte-Terlingua; click to see larger

Study Butte-Terlingua is just outside the west entrance of the park. It contains only a few hundred permanent residents, but there are restaurants, hotels, and convenience stores available. There is even a small grocery store (Cottonwood General Store) that is fairly well stocked. There are no chain stores or restaurants (e.g. Walmart) in the area. The closest "big" city is Alpine, about 80 miles to the north.

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Blooming Blind Prickly Pear Cactus
April 2016


The workshop will be hosted at:

Big Bend Resort & Adventures (formerly known as the Big Bend Motor Inn).
Located at the intersection of TX 118 and TX 170 in Terlingua, Texas 79852.

To make a reservation, please call the motel directly: 877-386-4383 or 432-371-2218

We have a block of rooms set aside for the class. Please mention that you are with the "Thomas J. Avery Photography Workshop". The room block will expire Mar. 1, 2019.

We also have a meeting room reserved at the motel. Our classroom sessions will be held in this meeting room.

Group Shot and Light Painting
April 2016

For additional information and to register for this workshop, please contact me (TJ Avery) and let me know that you are interested in registering for this workshop.

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What to Bring

When you make the commitment to attend this workshop and make all the arrangements for your trip, you will certainly want to arrive with what you need. While gear doesnít make the artist, having a checklist handy while you are packing can prevent being in a beautiful place with a dead battery and no charger.


Quick Checklist

- Camera body (DSLR or mirroless) - see note 1 below
- Lenses - see note 2 below
- Camera bag (something comfortable like a backpack or large waist pack)
- Batteries and spare batteries (and don't forget your charger)
- Memory cards
- Tripod (absolutely manditory for the 30-60 sec. exposures at night)
- Flashlight or headlamp (one with a "red mode" for preserving night vision is handy)
- Filters (especially a circular polarizer)
- Remote shutter release (note 3)
- Computer equipment (laptop, charger, USB cables, card reader, USB memory stick)
- Clothes, toiletries, & medicines
- Passport, green card, etc. (You will pass through a few immigration checkpoints on the highway as you come and go to the Big Bend area. If you are not a US citizen, please bring your documentation showing that you belong in the US.)


1. Cameras: Bring a DSLR or mirrorless (with EVF), or any camera on which you can manually adjust your aperture, shutter speed and ISO. If you have a backup body and/or a favorite point and shoot camera, bring them along too. For getting the best results on our night shoots, I would HIGHLY suggest you bring a camera body capable of shooting at least as high as ISO 6400. Most DSLRs made in the last few years will do this. Please also bring your camera manual. We will dive into some advanced settings for the night photography.

2. Lenses: Bring lenses to cover a range from super wide angle to telephoto. If you have a specialty lens like a macro, the Lensbaby or a fisheye, be sure to bring it. A workshop is a great time to try an old lens in a new way. For getting the best results on our night shoots, I would HIGHLY suggest you bring a lens with a LARGE aperture. To capture the Milky Way combined with land-based objects, a wide and fast lens is neccesary. Some examples::
- 14mm f/2.8
- 15mm f/2.8 (fisheye)
- 14-24mm f/2.8
- 16-35mm f/2.8
- 20mm f/1.8
- 24mm f/1.4
- 28mm f/1.8

If you do not have a fast lens such as these, then please consider renting one for your trip. I highly recommend Lens Rentals ( Many of my students in past workshops have rented special lenses with good success. I have as well.

3. Remote Shutter Release: Please have the ability to shoot long exposures in BULB mode. This may require you to bring a remote shutter release (wireless or wired). Some newer camera models have built-in intervalometers that will do this. You may want to shoot longer than your camera's longest pre-programmed exposure time (most models are limited to 30 seconds). Having this ability will allow you to engage in some of the more complex light painting scenarios that we will try.

4. Computer stuff: Our classroom will have desk space and power outlets so each student can set up an individual work station. Please bring a laptop with photo editing software so that you can download, process, and edit the images you shoot during the workshop. Free Wi-Fi is available at the main office of the motel. It may be available in our classroom, but please do not count on it.

5. Weather: Dressing in layers is the best way to go. Our field outings may span many hours in the day, temperatures, and even elevation changes. A rain poncho is always a good addition to your camera bag. Check the extended weather forecast and come as prepared as you can. Good comfortable walking shoes or hiking boots are a must. Bring a hat for protection from the sun.

Average high temperatures in April are generally mild but can vary. 60 to 95įF during the day is possible depending on whether or not a recent cold front has pushed through. The rainfall average in April is fairly low.

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Cactus Blooms
April 2016


Below are the policies, terms and conditions of this workshop. If you have any questions, please contact TJ Avery.

Payment for the Workshop:

- Tuition for the workshop is $650.
- Tuition for the guided shoot is $350.
- Tuition for both events is $900.

If you sign up prior to Jan 5, 2019, a deposit is required to secure your spot on the workshop and/or guided shoot. Then, the remainder of the tuition will be due on Jan. 5, 2019.
- Deposit for the workshop is $250.
- Deposit for the guided shoot is $150.
- Deposit for both events is $300.

If you sign up on or after Jan 5, 2019 then the full tuition is due to secure your spot.

Your tuition covers your participation only. Transportation to and from the workshop, park entrance fees, lodging, rental car (if needed), and meals are your responsibility.

If you Cancel:

If you cancel more than 4 months prior, then your deposit is returned minus $50 admin. fee.

If you cancel 3 to 4 months prior, then your deposit is retained **

If you cancel less than 3 months prior, then All funds are retained **

** EXCEPTION: If the workshop is full and you cancel, then I will try to fill your spot from the waiting list. If Iím successful, then I will refund your payments (minus a $50 admin. fee).

Workshop Cancellation:

This is a rare possibility, but life is life and things happen. Iíve never had to cancel a workshop before. Chances are extremely low, but, if it does happen, then I will refund your money in full. If this bothers you, then please consider making refundable travel arrangements or getting trip insurance.

Storm over Sierra del Carmens
Oct. 2014

Equipment Insurance:

I strongly suggest that you insure all of your equipment prior to leaving for a workshop. The greatest danger to your gear is yourself :-) I've never experienced a theft, but I've seen a lot of camera gear banged up in the Big Bend, mine included.

How to Register for a Workshop:

Please contact me (TJ Avery) by email and request registration. I will send you all the details.

Guest and Spouse Policy for the Photo Workshop:

I understand that you may have a spouse, friend, partner, or significant other (who is not into photography as you are) that you really want to take with you and show them the Big Bend. Many of my students in the past have done so, and they've enjoyed it.

PLEASE understand that your guest will NOT be allowed to attend the classroom sessions. They may tag along on our field outings, but they will not receive any photographic instruction. They are welcome to join us for any meals.

The issue is that bringing a non-workshop participant along with you adds to the size of the group. And the larger the group is, the more difficult it is to get around.

Only a few non-tuition-paying guests will be allowed to attend. Please contact me prior to committing to the workshop and let me know if you plan to bring a guest.

Guest and Spouse Policy for the Guided Shoot:

Everyone attending the guided shoot must pay tuition.

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Photographing the Milky Way
March 2018

Sun, Moon, and Milky Way Info

Table generated by:

Spring night Sky Simulated 4:30am
(image generated using

Spring night Sky Simulated 6:30am
(image generated using

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Past Workshop Details, Images, & Feedback/Testimonials from Students

Big Bend Photo Workshop, Oct. 2011
Big Bend Photo Workshop, Feb. 2012
Big Bend Photo Workshop, Oct. 2012
Guided Shoot in Big Bend, Oct. 2013
Big Bend Photo Workshop, Oct. 2014
Big Bend Photo Workshop, Apr. 2016
Big Bend Photo Workshop, Sep. 2016
Big Bend Photo Workshop, Oct. 2017
Big Bend Photo Workshop, Mar. 2018

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All images copyright of Thomas J. Avery